Diver Profile ?… Profile ? I’d look a lot thinner if it was more of a ¾ view…
Turn Ons: Sunshine, Panda Bears, World Peace
Turn Offs: Grumpy People, Ethnic Foods, Tight Shoes
Favorite Color: Octogenarian Blue
Maybe not what you’re looking for…
Since you ask so nicely, I’ll try harder.
I would like to open by saying, that I have given quite a bit of thought these last several days, as to how to make a very average, or possibly just slightly below average, life seem noble, heroic, and captivating.
Well…I’m really still at a bit of a loss.
I’m a good bit older than some of you, and quite a bit younger than others, and as I settle solidly into middle age, I can’t help escape feeling that I used to be interesting, some
… maybe, but the demands of life, work, and the social treadmill may be taking their toll…
Now, IT'S NOT REALLY ALL THAT BAD! but I have come to the enlightened realization that the key to happiness, may be to lower one’s expectations. I’ll weave that back in later,…
I grew up, an only child, in eastern PA. Lots of potato biscuits and marching bands, but not too much diving except what was in books and what JYC was doing on TV. (Ironically, Dutch Springs which is ~20 minutes from my childhood home, has become quite the inland destination now. Back in the day, it was just a big cold hole in the ground.) I had a great, stable, perfectly average middle-class upbringing, but I also always had a desire to see what was “out there.” Admittedly, I spent an inordinate amount of time with my copy of National Geographic‘s Undersea Treasures. One photo in particular overwhelmed me
not because they were sitting with a large cask of gold, but just because of how it felt, or at least how it looked like it all felt, to an awkward goof-ball from the middle of PA. Fortunately, my parents were always supportive and from an early age, I was king of the summer expedition. After graduating from the over-night camp phase, there was lots of backpacking cross-country, a summer on an AZ ranch,…
what does any of this have to do with diving?… I’m coming to that…
Lots of good adventures for a young man, and I’m getting closer and closer to the coast….
Spent a summer helping study Humpbacks (whales) from a sailboat off Cape Cod, and then somewhere in there ~1983 after carrying a USD catalogue around with me everywhere for a few years, we took a Christmas trip to a boring condo in Key Largo… and my life changed forever.
OK, you Navy-diver, LA Co.-super-boot-camp, I was 3rd mate to Capt. Nemo-types,… hold on to your little round masks,… I was originally certified, PADI, by the Atlantis Dive Center in 3 or 4 days when I was 15, I think.
It largely consisted of: 1) don’t freak out, 2) don’t hold your breath, 3) always keep the regulator in your mouth, 4) pay attention to how long and how deep, 5) when in doubt, floating is better than sinking, and 6) no matter what, don’t freak out.
It was pretty basic as I remember, but that was about all I was capable of absorbing at the time anyway. The only other thing I’m sure of was that the nice young DM had a great Heuer dive watch. I must say that after 28 years with that primmer under my belt, I’m still happily safe, sound, and accident free, but sadly, no fancy watch.
So……now, there is this entire other world available, and I was getting more and more ambitious.
In 1984 I was very very fortunate to be involved with the Cousteaus and their Project Ocean Search program and woo buddy, I was really hooked then. At that time is was being held in the BVI based off Moskito Island, named for the Indians and not the bug, and featured some fantastic people.
From L/R: Don Santee, Jim Kilbride (Bert Kilbride’s son), Jean-Michel Cousteau, ME!, another Cousteau Diver from the Alcyone crew I believe, Dr. Richard Murphy, Scott Frier, and a very nice young gal whose name I also forget, but let’s call her Wendy as she seemed to be in charge of people, logistics, and first aid. The very large white bandages on my feet should be clearly noticeable… NOTE: seventeen year-olds who get drunk and spend the night dancing away with their idols on a rough concrete Caribbean dance floor/slab, should at the very least be wearing flip-flops, and NOT bare feet. NOTE 2: immersion in salt water does not really help this condition. NOTE 3: do not take the advice of “professional” divers who are just about “older brother” age. NOTE 4: Hey, It’s all good!
It is my understanding that many if not all of these folks have continued to be involved in one form or another with JMC and his new endeavor, the Ocean Futures Society. I’ve heard some things said over the years about JM, and I really think some of it is out of line and uninformed. It is hard enough to find your own path in this world when you are doing it anonymously, to do it in the shadow he has operated in… I can hardly imagine. I think the world of that bunch and the advocates and educators they are, and we are all better off for the work that they do.
This was followed the next summer by an underwater archaeological dig in Israel at Caesarea Maritima with titans of the field, Avner Raban and Robert Hohlfelder. Lots of rocks. Measuring rocks, drawing rocks, mapping rocks, sometimes moving rocks to get better looks at… other rocks. Gold, not so much; lots of rocks, but an absolutely incredible opportunity and experience none the less. And talk about history… you can’t swing an unleavened bread in Israel without hitting some place that someone did something 2000+ years ago. Everyone should get themselves over there at least once in their lives, one way or another.
There was also a bit of a spike in international terrorism that year and I can still picture the images of victims from a mass shooting in a TWA terminal in Greece. Not to minimize the evilness of that act, but the result for us was that there were very few other tourists and the many people who relied on that industry were happy for any business they could get. After a season of diving in the Med. 6 or 8 of us chartered a huge live-aboard for a week in the Red Sea before going home. I doubt I will ever have the opportunity again to see a place as unspoiled as that diving was then. Really remarkable. I actually got vertigo more than once, putting my face under water at the surface and having the sensation that nothing was holding me up. The water has to be pretty crystal clear to give you the impression you could crash to the sea floor at any moment, as if you were falling off an office building…
I hope there are still places like that in some inaccessible hidden corner of the world, but I’m equally sure there are fewer and fewer every day.
So… that’s the apex of my exotic diving, I’m not 20 yet, the world is at my doorstep… and naturally, I go home and take a job as a Carpenter at an amusement park… Well, it makes more sense than it sounds like it does. I almost joined the Navy, almost. Took all the tests, filled out a bunch of forms, was right there… (if that recruiter had been worth a darn, I could have never got away) but as it was, I turned left instead of right, and that was that.
The park is an historic, family-owned place that started out as a farm and over 100 years or so traded all its corn for rides. It was/is staffed by people who in the simplest terms, taught me how to work, the importance of respect for the labors of others, and frankly, how to be a Man. Now, I’m sure they would deny all of it, but it was a critically formative time for me, and it was the seed for what would become my life’s endeavor.
The Zen of real Craftsmanship is something that followed me through college in Boulder CO, a Masters in Sculpture from grad school in Knoxville TN, years of work as a Maker-of-Things, and to my job of the last nine years at the Metro Historical Commission in Nashville. I am not a trained Historian, but I have developed a passion for old, well built stuff, and an abiding love for a really good story. History is a very broad field and I’ve managed to carve out my own little niche. I was also a really easy mark for VDH when I stumbled in here and remembered that photo I bonded with, of the guys on the rocks in all their gear with the surf and the spray. I’ll admit,… I wanted me some of that, somehow, some way.
I’m circling around now, keep up…
Diving for me has never been as much about treasure hunting, or stretching the limits, or gear, or process,… It has always been, more than anything else, a walk in the woods on a crisp and sunny morning,… only wet, and with fish. I’ve always been the most attracted to just puttering along, seeing what’s around the next rock, what wildlife wanders by on its own journey, what thing I stumble across that I didn’t expect, and really just BEING there. I’m pretty sure that’s why I have almost no interest in diving with a camera, because for me, it puts both a physical and emotional barrier between me, and the experience.
As a result, I most prefer to solo dive. There can be other folks around, I just am really not interested in waiting for anyone, or worse, being hurried by feeling like someone is waiting on me. Way too much of that already on dry land. Is this selfish? Yes, probably, but I think we should all be allowed our selected indulgences. The peace of diving is one of mine.
Now don’t misunderstand, when It’s get out time, I’m all about some beers and hotdogs around the picnic table, telling stories and basking in a shared adventure. The fellowship that can be so much a part of diver culture is something I would never want to miss out on. But in my mind, it’s sorta phase 2 of the overall experience.
The gift JYC helped give the world wasn’t just about exposure, it was about access. People could have gone on just watching his movies or cruised the depths in tour subs. What he gave people was the ability to make the voyage personal. You’re not just on another world, you’re on it by yourself, and you’re not just on it, but you’re in
it. It’s you, and everything else. Even the other divers become part of the background once you put that mask on and that hose in your mouth. It’s humbling and it’s magical. I can hardly imagine not ever having had the opportunity.
Whether it’s Ben Franklin saying the grass is always greener, or that girl singer with the lyric about it’s not having what you want but wanting what you have, or my tongue-in-cheek quip about lowering ones expectations, the reoccurring theme is the significance of contentment.
Without getting too too heavy (my wife would say flaky), I can tell you that my own diving at this point in my life, is all about a search for Peace and Mindfulness and the vintage, stripped down equipment approach, I think, fits that with perfection. Less stuff, less distraction, a more distilled experience. It may be what hang-glider pilots feel. Would be a good topic of discussion with one of those guys for after the third beer or so.
In carpentry we say that the young guy starts out with no tools, then they hit their stride and the years go buy and they get some special whatever for every little thing, but the wise old carpenter, he just comes in with the basics and doesn’t waste half the day going back and forth to the truck, not because he’s not as sophisticated and high-tec as the journeyman, but because the Master knows how to really use his tools, and not be used by them.
That seems very analogous.
One hose, two hoses, no hoses, I guess what I’m after with my vintage equipment diving is a “less is more” purity of the moment type experience, but I also don’t mind lookin friggin cool too!
I am very lucky to live on a lake myself, and am even luckier to have a great family. I’m always looking for an opportunity to head to the quarry so if passing through town bring your mask and regulator. I’m somewhat unlucky, however, to have six of the most spiteful dogs ever, so you can’t stay at the house!
So, you’ve made it to the end. If you’re reading this, then thanks for your patience and indulgence. I really appreciate the opportunity Bryan, and to anyone I haven’t bored to death or scared away at this point, it was the most fun I’ve had in recent memory meeting the group at Portage. I can’t wait to see some old faces and some new ones at the next VDH rally and dive-fest!
Safe and Simple diving to all…
Thanks again, your buddy,
Fred Zahn (8dust)